At Empowering Girls: So Sioux Me, I loath problems without solutions.
Thankfully, the authors of So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids have not only researched he problem, but provided parents and educators with action steps.
1. Change the Laws - If deregulation of children's media caused this problem, then reregulation of children's media can fix it. A law that makes marketing directly to children under 12 illegal protects children makes sense. Marketers claim they have freedom of speech. In fact, the Constitution says nothing about protecting Corporations, marketing or advertising rights to market to children - it speaks only of people. Marketers can still sell their products - to PARENTS. Requiring that they make products that PARENTS believe are appropriate for their children. Adults are more savvy consumers and can deconstruct advertising - children can not. Marketers have a predatory advantage against children currently.
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has a list of laws currently before congress. Go to the list, read the laws and use their simple links to write your representatives to pass law that protects our children's sexuality rather than exploits it. It's an election year and now is the best time to see action.
2. Get involved with children's advocacy groups. Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has run a successful campaign to get Bratz out of Scholastic Book Fairs in schools and stop marketing for the new provocative 90210 on school bus radio. Sign up for the CCFC e-newsletter.
Shaping Youth is encouraging marketers to sell a better message to kids.
There are others like Mediawise.org with great research and resources.
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3. Screen, Filter and Ban Sexualized Content. Sit down with your kids and decide what your boundaries are. Limit the amount of marketing that finds it's way into your child's brain.
* Be aware that the rating system is voluntary, E's reality lineup, Girls Next Door, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Sunset Tan, and Dr. 90210 are rated TV-14.
* Be aware that many inappropriate shows are unrated. Commercials are not rated at all.
* Video games and Internet ratings are also currently voluntary.
* Beaware that lots of advertising is popping up at school - in report cards, reading rewards, rewards for good behavior, in text books, signage, on Bus Radio, on Channel One, Corporate Sponsorships and fundraisers, etc.
4. Know Your Kid's Media - the days when we can trust media and marketers are gone. Read their books, watch their shows, visit their websites, listen to their music and watch their television. Monitor their email and Facebook, MySpace, Twitters and Blogs. Advertising is in all of those places.
5. Get beyond "Just Say No." Saying no about every single thing has been shown to further tear away at the parent-child relationship. Marketers use this and reinforce it in the marketing. Instead, open a dialogue and negotiate boundaries with them. Explain what you find objectionable about the product and allow the child to participate in boundary making.
6. Be open about Sex. I was shocked when sex came up directly. Ainsley was only 4. Then I looked around and realized it was on the radio, on television, in commercials, at the check out - for it not to come up would have been weird. If you don't talk about sex with your kids - they will hear only the bad message from marketers.
7. Learn/Teach Media Literacy - What's the real message? Figure it out, then talk to your kids about the message. Show them how photoshop works, tell them how they are using inappropriate photos to lure children to buy items. Make them media-literate.
8. Processing Images - When children are exposed to extremely violent images or very inappropriate sexual images teachers and child psychologists have found that children have a need to process the information. Use art, drawing or painting and writing to allow your child to explore their feelings about inappropriate and frightening images.
9. Counteract Negative Stereotypes - We've come a long way baby, but the media - not so much. Sexualized media portrays boys as consumers and girls as products to be consumed. It portrays girls as the object on which to display sexual products like brand name clothing and sexual heals. When girls see themselves as objects on which sexuality is displayed, instead of inherently sexual beings, and boys view themselves as the consumer of the product, instead of inherently sexual beings that crave intimacy - no real sexually healthy identity occurs. Speak up! When you see this happening in media - point it out to your children and tell them your alternative views.
"I don't think the clothes are sexy, I think confidence and self-respect in girls is sexy,"
"I believe men want the same emotional intimacy as women," are key phrases that will help your children resist marketers objectifying sexual message.
10. Trust YOUR Instincts. Most parents know something funky is up. They didn't have the ability to articulate what was going on. I've often heard parents check their own reality - "Did they just say that on a children's show? Did that commercial just run during family programing? Can this really be happening? Am I imagining it or did this type of stuff not come up when I was growing up? Are the kids dressing worse for Halloween? Is that doll really a stripper?"
The answer is yes. They said it. They showed it. It is different. It is damaging. The toys really are sexual and the advertising really, really is that bad and getting worse every day.
Now that you know, what are you going to DO about it?
Read the rest of my So Sexy So Soon series:
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